New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently told CNN she does “not understand” why America has not banned assault weapons the way she claims she has done in her country. New Zealand residents tell us the supposed gun ban just makes it more difficult to get licenses for semi-automatic weapons but has little impact on existing gun owners in New Zealand, a far cry from the political victory many claim Ardern secured.
CBS reported in an article about Ardern’s recent comments that the U.S. has not changed gun laws despite an “exponential increase in mass shootings in recent years.” While mass shootings make for spectacular headlines and are tragic, data does not necessarily show an exponential increase in their occurrence, although to be sure, there has been a uptick over the last decade. At the same time, gun ownership in the U.S. has increased while overall gun violence has decreased. School shootings, which were the big concern before mass shootings were re-defined several years ago, are also in decline. Claims the U.S. leads the world in mass shootings has also been debunked.
We live in a time when passionate convictions are valued above all else, but passion does not lend itself well to the practical implementation of effective policy. Climate change is another issue people are passionate about, and yes the climate changes, but what should be done about it comes down to specifics. In many cases, data is massaged to fit the most apocalyptic of narratives. This leads to further distrust and a muddying of the waters when these policy debates occur. At some point, both sides are just citing junk data and mistaking passion for facts.
Ardern is clearly enjoying her moment of celebrity as the anti-gun savior (which she isn’t) but her confusion as to why America hasn’t changed its gun laws is difficult to discern. The United States has tens of thousands of federal gun laws. We even had an assault weapons ban that didn’t work to decrease gun violence, but guns cannot ever be banned in America simply because this is a right written into our Constitution. This has been further backstopped by numerous Supreme Court decisions over the years. Banning guns is not a viable solution, and those who believe we can and should need to sit down for a Civics 101 class about how government works. Once we clear that speed bump, we can begin having a rational conversation about how to decrease gun violence in America.
What Ardern did accomplish was setting a nasty little precedent: she negotiated with terrorists. The New Zealand Christchurch mosque shootings that led to stricter gun laws were perpetrated by a self-described eco-fascist who wanted to create an ethno-state reserved for the white race. In his manifesto, he was abundantly clear as to why he was committing mass murder. The killer wanted to attack a mosque and kill Muslims, specifically with an AR-15 rifle because he knew it would encourage the government to ban such weapons. This would then, in his mind, inspire whites to rise up against their government in response, overthrow it, and replace it with bizarre Nazi Disneyland.
Ardern played right into his hand, just as many unimaginative bureaucrats would.